Blount group: Return Confederate symbols

By J.J. Johnson
Published 02. 19. 03 at 13:07 Sierra Time

After 4 months and a 1606 mile march from Asheville, North Carolina to Austin, Texas, the Confederate battle flag received warm welcome, but less than expected funding. Rather than give up, one of the most famous Confederate flag supporters has announced his next march to defend Dixie. This time, the end of his journey is New York City.

H.K. Edgerton, the former head of the Asheville branch of the NAACP and for the last five years, a defender of the Confederate flag and other related causes, told the Sierra Times that hopefully, "more people will become aware of our issues by taking the march directly to them."

The plan is to start in May 2003 and conduct a march that will rival a 19th century march of Union Sgt. Gilbert Bates. Shortly after the War of 1861-1865, Bates took a bet and marched 1400 miles with the stars and stripes from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Washington, D.C. unarmed and with no money to "prove the nature of southern hospitality." Edgerton plans to return the favor. Kirk Lyons, attorney for the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) helped promote and raise fund for the first "March Across Dixie."

The mission of this march "…is to raise the awareness, and to show the people of the north harbor no hostilities to the people of the south and their symbols," said Lyons. Lyons also told Sierra Times that, like before, the money to be raised is for Southern Heritage Defense issues. The Confederate battle flag has been an issue the last few years as some believe it is ‘offensive to blacks’ and others. However, blacks such as Edgerton have also been on the forefront of defending it display.

"When I marched through Georgia, I met plenty of black folks who were upset they never got a chance to vote changing the Georgia Flag," said Edgerton.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, led the fight to get rid of the Confederate emblem from the state flag which included threats and/or bribes to state legislators. He blamed his loss to Perdue in last fall’s election to anger over the move, as southern heritage supporters led a no-holds-barred campaign against his re-election.

In Mississippi a 2001 special election kept the Confederate emblem on the state flag, despite threats of NAACP boycotts. Exit polls showed even the majority of blacks voted to keep the flag as is.

The only effective boycott was in South Carolina, which actually boosted tourism dollars in that state and Confederate flag sales across Dixie. But to avoid physical threats and in exchange to receive funding for the raising of "The Hunley", a Confederate Army submarine — the first ever used in battle — the flag was given a more prominent position on the Columbia State house grounds.

Back in October, 2002, the Asheville Tribune wrote that the Southern Legal Resource Center, a non-profit law firm that defends Southern heritage cases such as the flying of the Confederate flag, currently has 12 cases that are about to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, with hundreds of cases being phoned in "…all the time."

"I’ve influenced a lot of babies across the southland to stand up," explained Edgerton. "Now they’re being sent home from school or forced to remove their Cross of St. Andrew (the original name of what’s now known as the Confederate flag)."

They are calling on legal help from the center and Edgerton wants to help raise money for their defense. Some believe the lack of fund raising and awareness for the first march was due in part to being overshadowed by the 2002 election and the possible upcoming war in the Middle East. This time, a greater awareness is planned, with hopes of corporate sponsorship to the boost the effort.

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